Sam Watkins

PhD Student

About me

I am a PhD student at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy where I work to understand and facilitate community-based participatory natural flood management in London. After graduating in Mechanical Engineering, COVID struck, and I became a Kitchen Gardener on the edge of the Welland Valley catchment in Rutland. There, I developed my strong academic and personal interest in our human relationship with the natural environment and our non-human neighbours. This nature-based experience inspired my study of Environmental Resource Management on Imperial’s MSc in Environmental Technology. At Imperial – back in the city – my human/nature fascination translated most vividly to the pressing socio-environmental problem of urban flooding, which I now work to alleviate in collaboration with the WWT and local stakeholders through nature-based solutions.

I maintain my own relationship with nature by co-running the Imperial Gardening Club, volunteering with City Harvest, and cycling inefficiently through town via sites of natural interest (see picture!).

My project

My research exists within a larger collaboration between the WWT and the London Councils of Slough and Richmond which seeks to ‘future-proof’ neighbourhoods of heightened vulnerability and sensitivity to increasing flood risk, perpetuated by global climate breakdown. To do so, the project seeks to work inclusively and accessibly amongst local communities to co-produce and co-manage innovative nature-based solutions (NbS) to urban flood risk management; co-benefiting both human and non-human life related to Richmond’s Beverley Brook and Slough’s Salt Hill Stream. This approach responds to emerging injustices in UK environmental resource management where communities of greater social disadvantage - and often of greater flood risk too! - are at risk of systemic neglect by environmental authorities; a phenomenon known as ‘flood disadvantage’ or ‘flood poverty’. Results of the study will contribute to outputs from DEFRA’s Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Fund, of which the broader WWT project partnership is part.

Experience and interests

  • Participatory research methods and public engagement
  • Natural flood risk management and environmental resource management
  • Interdisciplinary scientific writing, communication, and presentation
  • Basic statistical analysis, systems modelling, and CAD packages
  • Team working, networking, and facilitating collaboration
  • Graduate teaching assistant (GTA)
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